32-Foot Vertical Solar Panels to Power NASA Moon Base

Vertical solar panels for Moon base 1 photo
Photo: nasa
By the middle of the current decade, humans will once again set foot on the Moon. The main difference is that now we’re going up there to stay, and that includes building a space station around the satellite and eventually a base on the ground.
The landing spot for Artemis III, the mission that will land a man and a woman on the Moon, is scheduled to touch down in 2024 at the lunar South Pole. That’s where NASA envisions “lunar habitats, rovers, and even construction systems for future robotic and crewed missions” will be based.

But before getting to actually constructing them, NASA has to find ways to generate power. Given the Moon’s particularities, harvesting the Sun’s energy is one of the safest bets, one the American space agency announced it is willing to take.

Back in March, NASA announced it tasked five companies with the design of a solar array. The hardware will have to autonomously deploy once on location, be up to 32 feet (10 meters) high, and retract for relocation if need be. The hardware will also have to be stable on steep terrain, resits the abrasive lunar dust, and be small enough when not deployed to be easily shipped to the Moon.

“We are thrilled with the proposals received and even more excited to see the designs that result from the base effort,” said in a statement Niki Werkheiser, director of technology maturation in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD).

“Having reliable power sources on the Moon is key to almost anything we do on the surface. By working with five different companies to design these prototype systems, we are effectively mitigating the risk that is inherent to developing such cutting-edge technologies.”

The five companies chosen for the task are Astrobotic Technology, ATK Space Systems, Honeybee Robotics, Lockheed Martin, and Space Systems Loral. Each got a 12-month fixed-price base contract valued at up to $700,000.

After it studies the initial designs, NASA will narrow the list down to two companies and give them $7.5 million each to advance their ideas. Only one of them will likely make it to the Moon by the end of the current decade.

NASA says it chose to go for a vertical approach for the solar panels instead of a horizontal one because this would help prevent loss of power at the pole, where the Sun stays very close to the horizon.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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